By Kathia Laszlo and Alan Briskin
Note from the authors: We, Alan Briskin and Kathia Laszlo, have been in deep exploration on Unfolding Wisdom as part of the design process for the retreat on this topic. The retreat is meant for leaders, facilitators, consultants and change agents who are curious about the tension between intuitive knowing and its practical application in organizations and society.
Our rich conversation has become fertile ground for our future time together. The following article will give you a glimpse into our dialogue. We invite you to participate in it by sharing your own feelings and thoughts as comments to this post. The post begins with some initial reflections from Kathia, followed by a response by Alan.
Unfolding Wisdomis the experience of not being in control and yet knowing in my bones that everything is well. That even when my mind can’t understand and my ego experiences fear, I can trust in a larger benevolent pattern that informs my life — because I have chosen to listen and to be in alignment with it.
For me, this pattern is the pervasive consciousness of the universe that I experience as a gentle loving presence throughout my life. As an adult, I can now recognize that it was particularly alive when I was a child. Because of my Catholic religious upbringing, I am comfortable associating it with God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and Mary. And through my spiritual expansion, I can also call it Goddess, Great Spirit, Mother Nature, Sophia. In all of those names are cultural references that reflect sparks of Divinity in the attempt to grasp it. They are fractals of interpretation, conditioned by our human ways, that belong to the unnamed luminescent totality.
I have experience unfolding wisdom when I have been willing to go to the edge of my knowing and take one more step… that one risky step into the mystery. I have experienced unfolding wisdom when I had to stop listening to external sign posts and rely primarily on my own heart, my inner knowing, and trust that the embodied felt-sense of “yes,” even when it is soft and muffled by my critical mind and fear, is the guidance that I was hoping for. I have learned to lean more and more into this inner knowing because, regardless of the hesitation, I am consistently rewarded by a feeling of peace and joy resulting from my willingness to listen and follow it.
I experience unfolding wisdom quite often in my work. For example, I had a meeting with a client. I sat across her at a coffee shop, and as both of us sipped our cappuccinos, I felt the sacredness of the encounter. The context was mundane; the purpose was holy. I recently learned from a friend that sacred also means sole focus or single purpose. Full dedication. And in that moment, I was fully present with her, fully listening with all my senses… it was a moment of connection, of communion, that enabled my capacity to assist her. Her life experience, her struggles, her dreams became entangled with mine. Or rather, I recognize that our stories are connected, that we are one, mirror images of each other.
From that communion, I can become a conduit for the wisdom that goes beyond our two minds and that can only unfold in that moment, in that place, with her, for her. Everything I know, everything I have learned, my history and life experience, everything becomes relevant and informs what I am able to offer in the now. I sat at the edge of my chair, experiencing deep empathy and love, and ideas flowed through me. Her eyes had a spark, she was excited, she could sense the potential. It was as if many doors opened in front of us and they opened because, together, we created the key that unlock possibilities; the key that connects past and future, child and adult, mother and daughter, personal and professional, masculine and feminine; the key to wholeness.
I am challenged by the premise I believe lies behind Unfolding Wisdom. The premise being that there is an implicate order, in the words of David Bohm, and what unfolds is already present, waiting to be manifested. If so, what underlying conditions help determine what emerges? How does one encounter the light and dark aspects enfolded within ourselves? How might the noise and rumble of the outside world (and our own minds) drive us away or bring us closer to an innate intuitive knowing.
There is an intriguing legend of a Jewish Hasidic Master, the Baal Shem Tov. In the language of the Bible, the term Hesedis understood as loving kindness, directed toward a Creator as well as between fellow humans. Hasids were those who cultivated this loving kindness, opening themselves to be loved by an infinite force and to reflect that love back into the world. The Baal Shem struggled his whole life to embody this kind of grace, how to live with the felt sense of YES beautifully described by Kathia. The only problem was he was somewhat of an arrogant fellow, with temper tantrums and anger directed at those who didn’t deserve it. What distinguished the Baal Shem was his willingness to face his shadow side and shortcomings, to ask for help.
And this is where the legend takes a sharp turn. For who does he summon for help but Satan himself, the dark angel, an outer manifestation of the shortcomings we have within. And Satan is not pleased, summoned from Heaven where he has access to God and free to engage in lively debates. “How dare you” Satan bellows. “How is it you do not fear me?”
“I do not fear you,” the Baal Shem replies, “I stand in awe of Creation.”
Satan is furious and refuses to help. But then something happens that changes everything. There is a moment of exquisite presence, a look of such compassion in the Baal Shem’s eyes that even Satan found himself drawn in, and he whispers to the Baal Shem secrets of how to transform one’s lower nature. These secrets, of course, cannot be revealed in a literal or prescriptive way because they are the result of an inner transformation.
Baal Shem’s tale reminds us of the circuitous and often paradoxical forces that must be held in tension. Kathia reminds us that there is a fabric of meaning we are woven into and a social field we create that acts as a conduit of wisdom. The time is now to take this perennial wisdom out into the world, to be bearers of compassion and willing to call down, with less fear, the daunting forces from within and without. And we are more likely to do that together. The call is to create communities of practice, to live into emergent spaces that are both safe and brave.